The Pendulum Swings

San Francisco, CA. 

I was having dinner with Nick the other night - Korean Mexican fusion. After his revelatory mushroom trip at Burning Man four years prior, Nick had recognized a spiritual side of himself that demanded answers. Nick wasn't used to having questions that can't easily be answered with a Google query. So he had turned to me. 

I don't have all the answers. What I have are some ideas about the nature of consciousness, things I have gathered from various teachers: plants, books, people, dreams - things that feel true to me.

Nick was nodding along to my explanations until he asked, "So like, do you think it's possible for people like us, in tech, to achieve enlightenment? Instead of giving everything up and becoming monks, can't we build conscious businesses?"

When he asked this, I knew that I would have some tough explaining to do - tech bro to tech bro. 

"No," I replied, "I don't think we can be more spiritual by building certain types of businesses. In fact I think it will be difficult for most of us here in San Francisco to become very spiritually realized."

I saw his eyes light up with indignation. The idea that spiritual mastery wasn't one more metric that could be optimized according to a known best practice was abhorrent to him. He was offended at the idea that he was spiritually disadvantaged because of his other life ambitions. 

What I meant to say was that there's a difference between a penniless monk meditating on a mountainside and a Yale grad growing her user base so that she can save the world and also buy a Tesla. And yet there's also something they share. The techie can have moments when she catches a glimpse of unconditioned consciousness just as the monk, though perhaps not with as much ease or frequency.

"I'm sorry I said that. I want to explain to you, step by step, how I understand the nature of the self. I will even offer my best estimation of what happens to us when we die. And, I'm going to do all of that using a physics metaphor." 

"So, metaphysics?" Nick suggested.

"Yes. I guess so. We can call it that." I pulled out a pen and drew something on my napkin.

"That looks like a pendulum." said Nick. 

"Yes, that's what it is, and it's also you, me and everyone else in the world. On a spiritual level this is what we all look like." 

"How do you mean?"

"That entire thing, from the ball at the end of the string, all the way up to the fulcrum it swings from, that's you. The part of you that's up there at the fulcrum is the part that's shared with everyone else- we are all swinging from this same central point and it's a part of all of us. At that level, there's no difference between me or you, or even that bottle of Sriracha over there."

Nick looked puzzled.

"Well, there is something that makes you uniquely yourself - that's what the ball represents. That ball is your ego, and it's the part of you that lives your life, experiencing things day to day. This conscious experience is represented by the ball's motion as the pendulum swings."

Nick was bothered by a missing detail in my metaphor. "With the pendulum in physics, gravity is the force that keeps it swinging. The ball and the string don't just swing on their own, it's the transformation of kinetic energy to gravitational potential energy and back that makes it go back and forth. Without gravity it wouldn't work." 

I thought about it for a second and realized that there was a fitting equivalent for gravity in the pendulum metaphor, "For us, the forces that stand in for gravitation are our attachments. But it's not just a single attachment pulling down on us the way gravity does on earth. Each of the things we are attached to pull us in a different direction with varying degrees of force. The net of all these different forces is a pull much like gravity. It's that force that holds us apart from the fulcrum." I added to my drawing.

"This separation is what gives us our identity as individuals, but it's also the thing that creates the conditions for this endless swinging of the pendulum. As we move along this trajectory based on our desires, we are building up a sort of karmic potential energy, and at some point we'll have to swing back the other way. All that Buddhist stuff about how life experience is illusory, and attachments lead to suffering, this is what they are talking about. As long as we are stuck in that back and forth cycle, every joy will have it's pain and so forth." 

"So, how do we ever make any progress?"

"The big trick we seem to be playing on ourselves is that as our pendulum swings, it feels like progress, but the only way we can actually change our trajectory is if we change our relationship to our attachments. To understand this let's add one more detail to the pendulum: the string is elastic, like a rubber band. So, the less force there is pulling the ball away from the fulcrum, the shorter the string will become."

Nick was starting to get excited. "If we can become less attached to things, it allows our ego to move closer to enlightenment! But what if I'm attached to something good, like meditation - how can you say that's pulling me away from the fulcrum?"

"That's a really good point. Attachments don't all pull us in the same direction. So relative to where we are, there are things we can attach ourselves to that will pull us closer to the fulcrum. It could be a person we love, a practice, or a particular teaching."

"So, would you say there are good and bad attachments?"

"They are only good or bad relative to other attachments that effect you. If you had shed most of your ego attachments, you would be pulled very close to the fulcrum, and the same practice that helped you get there could now be an attachment pulling you away from it."

"Ok fair enough, But why is getting towards that fulcrum such an important goal?" Nick wondered.

"You have to assume that the spiritual practice is about reaching that place. When we are there, we have this capacity for a kind of infinite empathy, a stillness and peace. Once you get a taste of what that feels like, you understand why trying to be that way more often, or even permanently, feels like a valuable goal." I sat back in my chair for a moment to contemplate. I still had a pile of chicken and rice on one side of my plate. 

Nick had long since finished his dinner. He seemed concerned, "But if we are always swinging around, we're away from the fulcrum. How is it that we ever even get a taste of enlightenment?"

"Don't forget that there's a part of you that's connected to the fulcrum at all times. The issue is that even though you have a root in this peaceful realm, you don't actually feel that peace most of the time because your consciousness primarily resides in the swinging ball. However, even as our pendulum swings, there are points when it reaches the top of its arc, and the forces that move it cancel out. At that moment, the ball is still, just like the fulcrum, and the kind of intense presence that characterizes unconditioned consciousness can be felt." 

Nick nodded, "Wow, yeah. I think that might have been what I experience during my mushroom trip. I can also see how for someone with less attachments, their pendulum would be swinging on a shorter arc, and they might have those glimpses more frequently," he seemed happy with this outcome. "But there's something else you mentioned earlier that I still want you to explain. How does the pendulum explain what happens when we die?"

"Not to seem morbid," I responded, "But this is my favorite part of the pendulum metaphor. I should mention to you that my understanding of what happens when we die is influenced by Buddhism. In that sense I see there being two potential outcomes of death, the most common one being that we reincarnate, and the other being that we break the cycle by recognizing and remaining within the realm of unconditioned consciousness.

"Here's how it fits into the pendulum. In a paradigm where we must learn to detach, death is the ultimate teacher. Whether we like it or not, it will pry every last bit of ego and attachment out of our clenched fingers. So imagine what would happen to the pendulum if you suddenly released all the forces that were holding the ball away from the fulcrum. Remember - the string is elastic."

"It would go flying in towards the the fulcrum, like when you let go of a slingshot," Nick replied.

"Yeah, exactly, and the further stretched away from the fulcrum it is in the moment when that tension is released, the faster it's going to fly inwards. That momentum will take us right where we want to be, and then some. We might see the light at the end of the tunnel, get there, and then before we realize what is going on, we've refracted back out the other side of it into the rainbow of colors that make up phenomenal existence. In other words - we've reincarnated." I tried to illustrate this on the napkin.

"That sounds... awesome. So you believe in reincarnation."

"Yes - that's what I think happens most of the time. And it's beautiful! Each of us is a unique prism that the pure light of being hits and dazzles out into all these artful manifestations. It's hard not to get attached to those manifestations. But even in their beauty and uniqueness, they represent yet another set of conditions for the cyclical swinging of the pendulum."

"So is the goal to not be reincarnated?"

"The goal is to recognize when you are passing through the realm of unconditioned consciousness, and just stay there. The more attached you are in life, the more violently you are going to be plunging through this realm, and the less of a chance you'd have to recognize it for what it is, and stay in it. 

"Being willing to detach is as useful in the process of death as it is in life. As you are dying, the more you can allow yourself to surrender to the crumbling of attachments, the more slowly and peacefully you'll make your entry into the unconditioned, and the less likely you'll be to have the escape velocity that would send you out into another lifetime."

"It's just a theory. I mean who really knows what happens when we die or what it feels like," I concluded.

"I'm glad you told me about the pendulum," Nick smiled firmly, "It helps me visualize one way how it could work."

"Yeah, but try not to get too attached to it," I smirked as I crumpled the napkin.

Electric Slides -YC S16 Demo Day


This poem was nearly lost to an incident of careless rm-ing, and after resuscitation through a hacky python script from the deep binary gzip of the chrome cache, it was never the same again. While the poem was on the 'other side', the machine had its way with it, applying its own reductive logic to the piece. The end result is an undead collaboration of human and machine. Ctrl-F for specific companies. 


for those who have never been to
a demo day at YCombinator
it goes something like this

get off at the shoreline exit 
down 101 south
make the left
and before Sports Page
make the right,
park,
climb a flight

it starts to get nerve wracking
vicarious-style
because founders are wheeling
and starting to wile
in a crowd full of chatter, and badges
and muttering crazy eyed hopefuls 
readying themselves for their big three minutes.

and then the bell rings
a loud prerecorded voice repeatedly declares:
THE PROGRAM IS ABOUT TO BEGIN PLEASE TAKE YOUR SEATS

but by now I'm already in 4 conversations and
3 out of 4 of them testing my patience,
see those cool dudes: Alexis, Garry, Harjeet 
a head nod to Sam on the way to my seat
Pass grinning Qasar, and calming Kat,
waiting for Nick Cortes. The hell is he at?

we begin. for the founders - it's their big moment
for the crowd, a trial of stamina and focus
to listen to one hundred three minute pitches
before your brain melts or your piss in your britches.
a lap top flips open
a poet starts to write
and goofy Nick Cortes
does too, on my right.

Qasar takes the stage. He begins with a thanks.
Now presenting the latest recruits in our ranks:

did you know - USAliens spend nearly
one hundred billion dollars yearly
to join into union beloved so dearly
with boom in new grooms this market is clearly
ripe for disruption
or some CRM
so here comes the Joy. 
wait and see how it ends.

Or maybe, you're just along for the ride
for some car-bitrage. that's why some Indians buy, 
then rent cars to the tune of a milli a year.
JustRide with it, soon the self drives will be here.

what's been the same since 1936?
hint: it goes in a vag (and no, it's not dicks)
answer: a tampon. and enter here flex
the tampon, that let's you... drumroll please.
still have sex.
looks like a black livestrong filled with saran
mvp doesn't quite keep the jam in the can.

have you ever felt bored, when you're 6 miles up
with dry eyes and 3 cubes of ice in your cup?
as you hurdle from London to Prague or Milan
piercing heavens and nimbus, and started to yawn?
was the screen in the seat with some crappy TV
not helping you forget that you still have to pee?
Well with SkyLights, your tedious, sky sprinting days
will be filled with VR. Are you not entertained?

you might remember Casper
by Neil Parikh 
they'll ship you a mattress in
less than a week?
well imagine the same thing...
except for: a couch
and watch them Burrow sofa king
deep in your pouch.

X-Berts is a funny name
and they work with other funny name companies
like Haier. 
I guess... this is where heartbroken Ernie got hired.

The founder of ConstructVR is a poet. he says
if you are as excited about vr we are
wearing black dress pants and a navy blue t-shirt 
it virtual so no more cables 
see what in the galaxy it will enable. 

ok now next up i'm applauding yc 
for taking some strides towards deversity. 
we all know coder probably a white dude 
true that these stereo types can be rude. 
dev color help support retain 
coders who supply new flavor of brains. 

exponent founder was big at fb 
looks like he'll take it ^ the next level to me. 

this is fabric. but not that you wear 
it's more of a when what weaves into your where 
maps out photos moments in time 
from the ex-facebook hackers brought you timeline

only three hipsters in matching black rims 
would new york chef-types 
trust to deliver artisan 
lobsters pasta truffles galore 
found at nobu to be sure you're not poor. 

an iris in bloom is a wedding dress frill 
or dazzling nova around a pupil or.. 
collision avoidance. industrial drones. 
lovely. don't think they'll have many clones. 

cool founding team 
jackets put steph curry on screen 
their algo identifies his ysl 
also offers cheaper product looklive to sell 

waveform pulse yields calorie tracking 
tech behind airo needs backing 

go go gives grandpa lyft 
with old people oriented dial ride service 
its boon to the elders who need it the most 
user ac-q is actually working through post 

lumonistics 3D printed phone cap 
forgot to wear one on bone, got the clap 

in "get shit done" t-shirts 
flies in message bird 
saw them out earlier muttering words 
nervously yet... why were afraid 
$40M arr. parrots get paid 
mocking twilio wide winged casting shade 
announce price war by slashing rate. 

buzzfeed africa stats... omg digital
legit million monthlies 
means biggest website cape town -> tunis. 

new incentives mothers birth inside 
hospitals third cheapest way save lives. 
six thousand babies that die every day 
could grow up click omgd links someday 

airfordable turned profit last 
refrain 
hear batch than once profitable 

metapacket trackers 
hack black hat painters 
dangerous we. 

...all of that, that was just the first bunch 
merciful Dalton break us for lunch.

squire admire locks curls 
barbershop quartet not for girls 
worked at barbershop for the story 
embarked on path - ol' start-up glory 

slide layered pill brings back a dream!
within multiple labs
our bosses elves 
stacked powders pills 
to feed ourselves 
labor conditions cruel unjust 
humans are to elves as machines are to us. 

pro-active techmate support is the best 
hope their potential investors like vests 

simbi burning man barter skills
teaching yoga here may not pay bills
your students will clean for you,
teach you to ski
lace up your L-wire
slip you some e. 

real life robo-cop. sentinel matrix 
armed sirens flood lights shine faces 
intruders while floating drone-y props 
rather get flashed than shot by cops. 

mentat's logo 
pentagram fox 
what a witch of woodlands 
would carve in rock 
fill in grooves 
with blood of calf 
oh, but don't forget Metat. 
They doubled by half.

raptor ceo 
rugged boot-wearing 
jeans hiked talks 
optimal farming 
overhead shots 
potato ultrasound 
digs data 
most fries/acre 

mosaic of companies make up batch
nine dozen griffon eggs 
trembling to hatch 

lucy alex. couple kids 
ones who I vouched for, now they pitch 
replace human tasks with api call 
uses Teespring?
not that I recall.
started ava then switch scale 
alex strong presenter could go whale. 

immigrating america no flip of switch
in fact honestly sounds quite a bitch 
so with trump dumpster
or he somehow gets in
simple citizen even more of a win 

victor ching miso 
cleanest man in seoul 
saying a lot cause on the poll 
koreans average 1.2 cleanings week 
american kitchens still find ways to reek. 

imagine world where you never get gas 
park and truck comes to top off your ass. 
hop onto yoshi 
and never go back. 

latency kills user experience. 

lat 


en 





cykills user
sixa fix that.

millenials care about issues in fact
never vote, since its a physical act
vote.org helping young old normal absurd
ensure tiny big voice can be heard. 

starcity aims address housing scarcity 
$2100 is not cheap 
requests standing ovation 
from ashu while we eat 

odd yellow beacon robotic strange 
makes construction smartsite which must safe 

sam says portfolio eighty billion 
my contribution optimistically one. 

'please take your seats'
isn't doing trick 
indignant restless and sick 
of being told by a bot to sit down 
continue convo milling around

snappy solution jkan on mic says:
'please have a seat and be quiet
please have a seat and be quiet
have a seat and be quiet
have a seat and be
quiet

thank you'

athletic calls out igoudala defense 
pulled dubs over fence 
sports writing almost good as this verse 
makes diehards willing to open purse. 

lollicam snaps korea 
show house filters 

maclane zerodb 
enterprise dedicated 
hardware usage 
hadoop nodes 
idle disaster 
secure cloud 
storage raw 
unencrypted bloodless 
coup smoking gun 

suiteness concerned jimmy eating money 

yandex automattic wargaming.net 
names you know!
wallarm security thing 
$100k mrr familiar ring. 

coub word funny pronounce 
vid loops 800M views per month
creation tools => content 

oh my green health-fooding 
work snacks carbs crack 
craveable driving sales 
$10M/year serious kale. 

flutter wave payments 
across processed poem 
anymore info nigerian 
prince red hoodie. 

seneca systems 
building goverment oakland
san jose
revenue $400 a day

peter thiel funding hulk hogan explosive 
asset litigation financing legalist 
if dancing with the devil, know the steps 

emote time-out tech kids who act up
later behind they can't catch up 
child penitentiary 
costs schools $50B

fresh ad blockers 
cause revenue fall 
noble purpose cointent:
ad block uninstalls. 
usually I x out any tabs 
forcing choice between paying & ads 

crowd ai ML from bird's eye view
cruising to profitability soon. 

ray started robby 
little sidewalk delivery robots. 
stanford use case: party pull up with shots. 

record xxxxx xxxxxx 
breaking xxxxxxx 
recently hit xxxxxxity 
come join xxxx revolution. 

Instrumental 
helps scientists apply proper grants 
saving money, giving progress a chance 

alex and derek are event geeks 
customers: google uber 
wondering where to sign up? 
summary: geek. 

crane lift 
sales force tower
bleary eyes 
giggling wobble steel beam 
that level of service
excite? terrify? 
check HiOperator 
don't operate high.

astronaut nosing tome 
rocketlit logo ed-tech 
kids bored of traditional text
books won't stay in school 
rocket lit readers dynamic and cool. 

killed when guns toys 
pops they make detectable noise 
new fire detector for your loft 
know when things start to pop off. 
are you under fire, or starting to burn?
a whine from the wall will prevent you from churn 

streamers are dreamers, they want more flow 
should talk to the fine folk at revlo 
gamifies viewing hypes fans 
ample supply, let's 'roid on demand. 

jumpcut courses feel movies 
other ways learning="Ambien" boring 
poet exhausted, nearly snoring. 

replacing nasdaq 
first principles finance
onechronos 
swinging for the fences 

quero dinero stacking each year
talking $3M. ebitda to be clear
brazil universities need help
really somehow reels kelp 

replacing lab testing 
cool ass hand-swag 

So livement: a jersey. a product. a dream
In last month have sort of become a real thing

call steve dean, 'soriek, aq!
polymail has format for you
browse relationship histories 
stack rank amours with ease 
actually boring e-maily stuff 
does anyone have any glue I can huff?

opsolutely deployments 
scripts system rules 
github or aws for deploys 
don't leave something this big to the boys. 

people.ai integrates easily

ooh lala. look at teal Am-Ap shirts 
stats ed making money. milli a year. 

[im dipshit, succophunt, loopsy as fuck,
flippant, fuck it ship shit, hell do you want?]

ok. back on track 
back on the smart path
gasping start up death march 
to finish not to diminish this co
$11k MRR is just “so”

neowize claims personalize. 
online shopping, what would you recommend?
too late visitor already scheduling date 
on FB, two seconds from closing your page.
splits tinderly indicate what user will fuck
with in terms of some junk to pick up.

mortgage
I have one
thought it would make me baller
lendsnap make monthly payments smaller?
I applied, was a no go from almost all banks
til my mom co-signed with me. Mom, thanks.

sailswail. 
saleswhale 
sailswail 
sellswell 
cute whale
selswel 
sayolswayol 
pokemon near future
growing fast huge 

dont be flyin in my drone zone 
apolloshield applies safety cone 
knows takeover codes 
enemy drones self-implode

ivan kirigin growth mind 
grew 12x dropbox 
2 short years 
yes graph positive win 
10B edges tracked to begin

lack of crowd up front 
justin kan:
'sit in this hole 
can you just come down and sit
fill in this hole here.
ok you did a good job of sitting 
now be quiet.
I'm taking this opportunity to make a snap. 
whatup snaps. 
ever seen such a beautiful audience?'

fellow serves zesty serve food 
set revenue young founders figure 

paul bucheit co. pb. 
collect med history 

launchindia coworkingcenter 
crazy way companies enter
new spaces and niches carve out their share 
optimal pie we slice out of thin air

aside qasar whispers with grin
something to on deck exvivo kids
giggle seem confident
take to stage
allergy testing these days is a shame.

[ call me the wordsmith, the puker of puns,
rhyme whore, the ass of the earth under sun ]

animal testing is part of the plan 
to repair relations between beast and man
farmer only make hundred bucks a head 
so are most cows better off dead?

g-tracking fracking 
cutting the costs
double habitat loss 
but is this evil?
plenty to offer to energy people. 

nova credit 
there.
I said it.

javascript vidcode pokemon and memes 
types of code training engaging to teens 
$15M deals point blank fills bank. 

bulldozair addresses a construction gap
call it a bridge round

||| whyd 
illest? 3? the third?
it's a jambox that looks like 
a megatron turd. 
Whyd is the jibble of bibbles my friends
sounds like the curve of the earth as it bends.

sway has the swag 
to keep audits at bay 
take few thousand jobs 
off the market
that's sway. 

selfycart wants applause 
largest amusement disney? explode 

Rose rocket trucking wanders her shimmering trinket beauty 

find myself squirmingly needing to piss
I chugged coffee, water, and tea
to stay awake for all this.

next?
elemeno. yeah. 
what comes next? pee! 
dear god of start-ups 
stop fucking with me.

utility score used by zillow and renew 
7M api calls only took 3 months to do

meesho
oh meesho
would that I cared about all this lovely
stuff you have here prepared

ted from work ramp he grilled me at lunch
I am trying to chew more, he asked me too much.
now I'm squeezing my thighs with my bladder on crunch. 

sweaty palms
vetcove 
each start up brings pain 
how many more of these hopefuls remain? 

proxy office access with your phone
wonder when it will roll out to home 

rigplenish.. pig flemmish? 
that's it. we're finished!

clap. yadda yadda
this batch was legit
I'm off like a racehorse 
at the end of my wits. 

***

S16 had diversity, building trust
without compromising on traction or thrust

this is
esc,
poet
reporting to dusk.

of course

a white man’s perverted tea garden,
a representation of nature with roads
and a mission, to swat ball in hole:
conquerable, driver-friendly nature.

bring your visors,
and your khaki shorts,
leave your women.
they chortle as one old fellow putts it in.

central dusk

low disc sun
burns across the cornfields
This is America’s flat belly.
Americans - fat bellied
jumble for a pop
a granary gleams
cornstalks grow high
as the fructose

white fear


white fear is white evil seeing itself
when it knows what it raped and enslaved for its wealth,
can’t but project vengeful and violent plans
on the body and mind of the victimized man.
Philando, Oscar, Alton, and Tamir
caught in the crosshairs of violent white fear.
white fear is a coward, it shoots in the back,
it crushed thousands of innocent lives in Iraq.
white fear is the sermon that sanctifies greed
to serve banquets of corpseflesh we can't even eat.

Dream of Thrones

The undead are a frustrated bunch. They want to let their weary souls rest, and yet the current administration of King’s Landing is bent on preventing them from reaching the magical pool in the depths of the Red Keep where they can drown their misery permanently.

Lucky for these tortured, half rotten lot, the new king Tommen has resolved that he will read an incantation at waters edge which will allow the zombies to dissolve themselves in the dark water. Cersei takes issue with this, and sliding down the catacomb stairs at an alarming rate, she tries to knock the book from Tommen's hand. Instead she ends up falling into the water where there razor lined tentacles of strange squids whip about hungrily. 

As legions of zombies begin willfully plunging themselves into the waters to be nullified, Cersei looks on for a horrified, reluctant moment before being consumed by the nearest hell-squid.

The Spider

I saw a spider, greenish black
and purple in her sheen
she scuttled quickly into cracks
in walls and in between
the universe and two-niverse
yet catch her as I tried
she always found the creviest
of corners where to hide
I passed my hand through swaths of web
they danced out from my fingers
still somewhere at the garden's edge
my friend, the spider, lingers.

Reading Yourself to Sleep

This essay presents a technique that can be helpful for those with trouble falling asleep, or those who would like to advance their dream practice by achieving an increased awareness of the transition from wakefulness to sleep.  

Falling asleep has never been easy for me. My parents were well aware of this fact as my childhood self would make frequent late night trips into their room, looking towards the comfort of their presence as a salve for my fear and insomnia. 

My mom is herself a lifelong warrior in the struggle against unwanted wakefulness, and my constant arrival in her and my father’s bedroom at odd hours of the night was a huge nuisance. She was quick to give me a piece of advice that I have been using ever since to help myself fall asleep. 

Read.

Grab a good book, slip under the covers, start reading, and before you know it, find yourself reading right off the side of page, your mind drifting into a funky creative territory as your eyes start to droop and your head goes limp. 

You snap out of it, determined to consume another page, but you know that for better or worse, sleep is on the way. These little blips in the flow of normal waking thought are called hypnogogia. For someone with problems falling asleep they are a welcome arrival. 

As I’m reading my way to sleep, I continue until these hallucinations become overwhelming enough to put my book aside and turn off the light.

This is where my tried and true strategy hits a major road bump - one that I only just recently discovered a solution to. As soon as I set aside my book, my mind goes back into internal dialogue mode. I start thinking about a recent conversation or a trip I want to plan. In this state of mind, the hypnogogia often recedes, and I find myself once again laying awake unable to sleep. 

The solution came to me as I started considering what it is about the state your mind goes into while reading that makes it easier for hypnogogia to manifest compared to when you are thinking. When you are reading, your mind is an open, receptive state - observing and consuming information. Thinking by contrast, is a creative activity. You are planning, responding to your own thoughts, and actively generating the next line of internal dialogue.

Thinking aligns the conscious mind with creation. Reading aligns the conscious mind with consumption. 

Sleeping and dreaming correspond more closely with reading in this sense. In these states, the subconscious takes the reins of the mind’s creative engine, while the conscious mind sits back and observes. This is explains why it’s easier for the experiential logic of dreams to manifest in the mind of a reading person than a thoughtful one. 

This train of logic lead me to a thought(less) experiment which I recommend trying. After you set aside your book for the night and turn off the light - keep reading. 

Refuse to let the mind drift into a train of internal dialogue and instead look for the words etched in light onto the blankness of your mental blackboard. If there were anything there to read, what would it be? Once you have read one line or phrase, look for that next word instead of thinking it.

You might find that as you read in the darkness, hypnogogia greets you even more effortlessly than it does during normal reading. It is easier to hold the images, content and sensations of these hallucinations in awareness, observing them and surrendering to them as they shuttle you into the land of dreams.

singapore

poets see lines in their minds
as they strive to be scribes at the
start of the page

what I’m “writing" for her's not a 
poem then, since I’m moved not by
words, but image

a portrait of peacefulness etched in the sky
framed by contrails of jets and yet,
in my minds eye

as real as an architect’s opus in steel
as the slow turning cars on the big ferris wheel
as olors of 稀飯, 烤鸭, and goreng
as the orchid’s speckles, bromeliad’s fangs
as these smooth lettered keys that I tap with my hand
as my journal, which mentions her, on the nightstand

things concrete, molecular - yes, they exist
but when I glance up just one 
image persists

eyes I can smile at for hours and days
a bonfire of warmth I can 
trust with my gaze

so when my friends ask, “why are you off in space?”
this city’s a notebook, I’m
writing her face.

If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you're not reading this

I was talking with a friend over some street food on a sticky night in Northern Thailand. He described something he had been through which was all too familiar to me as a writer.

He had reach a point where he was creating ferociously - writing every day and coming up with seemingly endless content, all of which he kept in a private folder on his laptop. So great was his creativity that he decided he wanted to share his work.

So, he started posting his writings up onto Facebook. At first it was a great success. He posted up one article from his private folder each day and continued producing more content.

Then, after a few days had gone on like this he started looking at the reactions to his posts. He noticed familiar names popping up in the list of people who had liked his post - a friend from high school, a woman who he admired, a mentor whose opinion he valued. He was initially excited to see that his work was getting all this attention.

But the next day, as he approached the page to lay down a sentence, doubts filled his mind. What will my mentor think if I write this? Is my crush going to realize this is about my ex? Does it matter?

The same laptop screen where he’d succeeded as a solitary scribe had transformed into a terrifying soapbox from which each word had rippling implications stifling their own expression. Most importantly - he now felt pressure to be good. There was no longer room for crufty passages or awkward phrasing. 

For a month, the creative faucet ran dry. The words accumulating on his laptop felt forced and stunted. Nothing was reaching a finished form, and nothing was shared.

Frustrated with the creative block, he finally resolved that he wouldn’t write with the intention of sharing. It was just going to be for him. He sipped strong coffee and found his voice again, filing away thoughtful anecdotes to the private folder on his laptop. 

___________

Audiences are not the enemy of the writer - but they must be understood. It’s important for us as writers to own how our audiences can coax the best from us - rather than letting the expectations of our audience own our creative process.

We have a bit of a mental trick to play on ourselves. If we can separate the intended audience during the creation stage from the eventual exposure audience, we might actually get that wonderfully imperfect piece out to our readers. 

We toil over a heartfelt love poem for the person we’ve been dreaming about. When we find out they got back together with their ex before we had a chance to press send, we use it as the “about me" text in our OkCupid profile.